Relationships are at the center of so much of what we do as teachers, coaches and leaders of professional learning. Open, inclusive conversation rooted in active listening is at the heart of those developing relationships. Which technology tools can support these kinds of meaningful conversations?
Experience: Jewish Educator Book Club Zoom Meetings
Tech Tool: Zoom
Zoom is an online web conferencing tool that is easy to set up, easy to manage, and easy for participants to access - already removing barriers to online conversation! What I particularly love about Zoom and conversations is the variety of ways you can view participants - everyone, just the person speaking, or the speaker larger than other participants. You can not only hear everyone, you can see their body language and their facial expressions. You can be online without missing many of the important cues for active listening and conversation that you miss without that visual. The breakout groups function is another excellent way to seamlessly provide small group conversation time, not just whole group. Participants I’ve worked with have noted that the Zoom “room” creates a quiet space to focus on each other in conversation. This educator book club meets on Zoom every other week. We have gotten to know each other while listening to each others’ ideas and providing the visual feedback that enhances a conversation.
Experience: #ETCoaches Book Study Slow Chat
Tech Tool: Twitter
I’ll admit that I wouldn’t have put Twitter in the “rich conversation" category a few years ago. However, participating in the #ETCoaches slow chat has helped me see Twitter conversations, “chats," in a new light. A slow chat works by spacing out questions and response time over a longer period of time (as opposed to a typical Twitter chat where questions are fired off every few minutes and the flow of answers is fierce in those minutes before the impetus to move on). In the case of the #ETCoaches book study, a new question is posted each day. You have the entire day (and longer if needed), to review responses, to ask clarifying questions of others, and to craft your own responses without intense time pressure. I find that this kind of chat has allowed for more actual conversation, back and forth interactions, between me and other participants. It allows for literally seeing more of the offered perspectives as well as exploring them more deeply. I feel more connected to the individuals as well as the flow of the group in this slow chat format.
Experience: Mandel Teacher Educator Institute Action Group
Tech Tool: Edmodo
There are a lot of learning management systems (LMS) out there, but Edmodo has been my LMS of choice. For a free tool, it has a lot of features, including hosting nested online conversations. In the Action Group that the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute hosts on Edmodo, we’ve been brought together by the common interest of text study. We choose texts, explore them, and consider how they would work with students and staff. We share resources. We ask questions. We have all the information about our conversations, including conversations themselves, all in one central location. Having this central place to talk and share makes other interactions that we have (notably those in Zoom meetings, see above) more efficient and effective. Our group knows that we can always find each other for support and conversation in our Edmodo group.
I’ll close with the reminder that it isn’t the tool that is making these conversations so rich, it’s how we are using them. Actively choosing the tool to support our conversations and collaborative work requires thoughtful reflection and an understanding of what each tool can bring and how it can support our goals. However, without these tools, I (we) would be missing opportunities for discourse and learning with and from colleagues.
Where are you finding spaces for rich conversations?
I'm an elementary school teacher turned professional learning/edtech coach, avid reader, and lifelong learner. For 2018, I've set the goal to create a 6 word memoir for each week to find my voice, reflect on my own professional learning, and set goals for how my learning will impact my practice.
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